The inaugural 40 Under 40 Public Health Catalyst Awards aim to highlight the rising leaders and innovators of the public health field. The Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH) and the HPHR Journal selected a group of “leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists”, and doctors that will inspire the next generations of public health workers to change the world. The individuals featured for this award have not only shown excellent work performance and an extensive academic history but have also brought innovative solutions to public health issues around the world.
The NYC Daily Post interviewed 40 under 40 award winners to learn about their career journeys leading up to their nominations.
Q1. What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?
To always be learning, to constantly build critical thinking, and to regularly acquire additional skills. It is important to be transparent and honest with yourself in order to grow throughout your career journey. Investing the time and energy to reflect and set goals can be a game-changer for success. Personally, I believe the best goals are informed by learning from previous opportunities and experiences. It can also be a source of inspiration to learn from the good and bad – remember to be grateful for all the moments and continually work to be better daily in all we can do.
Q2. Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
I do, I had a mentor a number of years ago who helped me by telling me exactly what I needed to hear at the time. It was during a rough patch in my life, where then I turned to my mentor for the first time with a problem that was more emotionally driven. Without revealing too much about my situation, my mentor could instantly see that I was not in my usual state and provided me with some advice which helped me immensely. What I would say to my old mentor is that I am grateful for the time we had to work together, but what was especially special to me was that my feelings were heard and validated.
Q3. What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
Keep asking questions and listen attentively to others. When facing a new task and you are unsure of the best course of action, asking for clarity or guidance is the right thing to do. Asking targeted and thoughtful questions will show your supervisors and colleagues that you are committed to your growth, demonstrated by taking initiative early on. Also, do not be afraid to set up meetings with your supervisors and those you deem successful around you to informally ask questions and hear their career stories.
Q4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
I feel that if I can leave one mark upon my profession it is to foster a positive atmosphere that can bridge innovation and creative solutions to tackle humanitarian initiatives around the world. This positive atmosphere can reduce the stigma and challenges as well as encourage collaboration among various members of the community to solve current and subsequent problems that can be complex given the geopolitical environment.
Q5. Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
Effective communication is a constant challenge during all phases of emergencies, especially in conflict- and disaster-affected populations. While they are often verbalized, communication is rarely thoughtfully prepared and implemented. When these preparedness efforts are implemented at government and macro levels, several challenges arise when providing equitable and just outputs, such as corruption. It has been highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth the importance of communication. This is especially the case with the rise of disinformation from extremist campaigns and the growing spread of misinformation. It continues to harm the public health and resiliency of communities, as documented in our team’s work in Ukraine, such as healthcare disinformation research. The biggest impact I have personally seen during the pandemic has come from interdisciplinary and experienced teams who have developed models and coordinated work to combat this issue. What has been key for the coordination and implementation in these local communities has been breaking down complex ideas into simpler and practical tools. I am also confident that it will continue in knowledge transfers long after this initial challenge within the Public Health field.
Q6. What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
My ultimate career goal is to chair a well-supported department or initiative on a global scale to build a platform where people can be informed on current Public Health and Humanitarian issues and act on solutions that can help keep their communities safer and healthier. One thing that is important to me is to keep the information I write about as accessible to people as possible. For one, I would like to continue my weekly newsletter, A Clean Bill of Health, on LinkedIn and perhaps get more outreach on that end. On the other hand, I also would like to contribute to the scientific community through publishing in journals and books which have a similar mission as I do: do good and help others.
Q7. What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
Alternate roles I would be interested in pursuing would be anything involving more community engagement and service work. As much as it is important to carry out academic research and policy advocacy about certain topics, it is just as essential to work with the communities affected by these issues. As much as you are mostly writing for academics and policymakers, especially academic publications in journals, allowing communities to have a voice and showcase their own narrative will make you a better researcher, academic, and advocate.
Q8. What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
Breaking old silos and driving past inequities in research and practice, I have carried out initiatives to better improve leadership, evidence, and advocacy in the intersections of public health communication, health resiliency, and community engagement practices and training all over the world – from at home in America, to India, South Africa, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the list goes on. I am on the way like my peers to trailblaze a new path in public health and as a role model for the next generation of thought leaders and researchers who want to do good and help global communities. I am passionate and committed to help others and do good. Collaboration and networking have been one of my greatest assets. I have connected with others and spoken about topics from social justice to health equity within public health and humanitarian programs and research. Having my diverse experience and skill set has allowed me to build strong relationships within and across interdisciplinary teams to produce long-lasting positive change in communities. Passion, commitment, and optimism are values that are paramount within this field, and ones that I share with those I surround myself with.
Q9. Ten years ago, I thought I would be …
Never been given the opportunity to publish an academic book. I have one coming out this October called Community Resilience When Disaster Strikes: Security and Community Health in UK Flood Zones, published by Springer Nature.
Q10. Ten years from now, I want to be …
Still working in my field for the betterment of the health and security of global communities around the world. Perhaps taking a step back to further support the next generation of thought leaders and researchers, some of whom I currently mentor. Still spreading the message of doing good and helping others that I am currently following.
Q11. Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
I do, my family and friends are important to me. I am very grateful for them from keeping me grounded to being my loudest supporters over the years. It can be hard to keep a work-life balance when working in communities globally, but my family and friends help me to maintain it.
Q12. Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
I grew up in the Los Angeles area of Southern California, and I have received my Bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley, my Master’s from the University of Southern California (Public Health and Global Health Leadership), and King’s College London (Psychological Medicine). An interesting fact about me is when I was growing up, I wanted to be on Sesame Street (hopefully one day it will happen).